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Tolkien's C and G (was Re: _A Gateway to Sindarin_ by David Salo: a review)

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  • Hans
    ... Salo s statement as quoted by Carl, Tolkien s handwritten capital _C_ and capital _G_ are very similar , must indeed be understood as a fact established
    Message 1 of 9 , Mar 19, 2005
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      > [Neither is David Salo, but that does not prevent him from
      > presenting himself as an expert on Tolkien's handwriting and making a
      > completely false, self-serving claim, completely without any
      > supporting evidence and contrary to the the actual evidence of the
      > facsimile, as though it were an established fact. CFH]

      Salo's statement as quoted by Carl, "Tolkien's handwritten capital _C_
      and capital _G_ are very similar", must indeed be understood as a fact
      established by somebody who knows Tolkien's handwriting. In reality,
      one doesn't even have to be an expert, or to have access to original
      manuscripts, to see that it's completely false. The shortest look at
      the facsimile (VT44:23) shows that the C is written connected with the
      following letter (e) in a way impossible for a G. That alone would be
      sufficient to dismiss Salo's claim as lacking evidence.

      But it's not difficult for most persons seriously interested in
      Tolkien's work to have a look at lots of capital G in Tolkien's
      handwriting. All one has to do is to have a look into _The War of the
      Ring_, containing many facsimiles of original manuscript pages, those
      in turn containing many words like "Gollum", "Gandalf", "Gondor" or
      "Gate" for obvious reasons.

      Hans Georg Lundahl wrote:

      >As for Tolkien's G's, a lot depends on whether he wrote G's with a
      >tail (like a minuscule g but open) or only G's with a dash (like this
      >typed G).

      Just open the book and look at the first frontispiece. The seventh
      line contains a nice "Gollum" clearly showing the tail, so it's the
      former case (a G like printed may be found in rare case, like on the
      extremely fair copy of a map, VIII:434, but one would find it hard to
      confuse that with a C).

      In this case (and actually often) the G is not connected with the
      following letter, and the tail ends at its lowest point. Then, the
      tail may be even not connected to the rest of the letter G, as one can
      see in the last paragraph of VIII:204 ("Gollum" and "Gondor").
      When the capital G is connected with following letters (as it seems,
      that happened in more hasty writing), the tail turns upwards again in
      a characteristic loop, as one can see in the last line of VIII:90 (the
      last two words are "Good luck", cf. the bottom of VII:91). That loop
      is often formed more clearly than the rest of the letter, so it's not
      just improbable, but downright impossible to confuse with a capital C.

      Hans
    • Thorsten Renk
      David Salo: _A Gateway to Sindarin_ a discussion by Thorsten Renk I. General remarks Now David Salo, probably most famous for the creation of the Elvish
      Message 2 of 9 , Mar 22, 2005
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        David Salo: _A Gateway to Sindarin_

        a discussion by Thorsten Renk


        I. General remarks

        Now David Salo, probably most famous for the creation of the Elvish
        dialogues in the "Lord of the Rings" movies, has published his ideas on the
        grammar of Sindarin. The book has very much the flavour of a review
        published as a summary of long research. It aims to cover all aspects of
        Sindarin, from the internal history of the language in Tolkien's
        legendarium to the phonological development from the primitive Common
        Eldarin forms to the Sindarin of the 3rd age, from the grammatical and
        syntactical rules of the language to the way names and other compound
        words are formed. In addition, it contains several appendices providing
        Sindarin-English and English-Sindarin wordlists, a list of primitive
        roots, an analysis of all known texts in Sindarin, and an annotated
        bibliography.

        The book is written in a highly technical language (at times unnecessarily
        so), and although there is a glossary of linguistic terms, in order to
        actually read and understand the text the reader needs more than an
        elementary knowledge of grammar.

        This, in combination with the scheme employed by Salo for distinguishing
        between attested and reconstructed forms, leads to the greatest flaw of
        the book -- its false pretense of rigor. While the technical language and
        the presence of the signs ! "reconstructed form in external history",
        * "reconstructed form in internal history", and # "form with regularized
        spelling" suggest that the book is a serious scholarly attempt to deduce
        the grammar of Tolkien's invented language by starting from Tolkien's own
        writings, a closer look reveals that this is actually not quite true. The
        book represents rather a grammar of Sindarin as Salo thinks it should be,
        sometimes regardless of what Tolkien wrote.

        Therefore, although the book is written in the style of a comprehensive
        review, it lacks an important element which would be present in a
        scholarly work, i.e., citations to the underlying reasoning for the grammar
        given here. All we get to see is the end product, but we seldom get a
        glimpse at the logical deductions leading to the forms which are
        presented. This makes it very difficult to actually judge the value of a
        given idea. Richard Feynman characterized scientific method with the
        words: "Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be
        given if you know them. [...] If you make a theory [...] and advertise it,
        or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree
        with it. [...] In summary, the idea is to try to give all the information
        to help others to judge the value of your contribution, not just the
        information that leads to judgement in one particular direction or
        another" (from _"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!": Adventures of
        a Curious Character_). Clearly, that is not the approach David Salo
        has chosen.

        In the following, I will try to give an overview of what I can see of
        Salo's methology in dealing with Tolkien's original texts, followed by
        comments on selected chapters of the book.


        II. Standardizing Sindarin

        David Salo tries to discuss the grammar of a fictive, "classical" Sindarin
        that is supposed to be a unified description of everything Tolkien
        wrote about the language.

        However, the texts Salo refers to range from early sources like the
        _Etymologies_ (c. 1937) to late sources like _The Shibboleth of Feanor_
        (c. 1968), and for all we know Tolkien's ideas about the phonology and
        the grammar of the language (and even its role in his legendarium --
        initially it was "Noldorin", the language of the Exiles, before it became
        "Sindarin", the language of the Grey-elves) changed considerably. Thus,
        Tolkien's changing ideas clash frequently with Salo's attempt to find
        "standard Sindarin".

        Consequently, Salo employs a variety of strategies to deal with
        "irregular" pieces in Tolkien's writing. In the following, an example for
        each of them is provided:

        1) Open dismissal:

        On p. 390, Salo discusses the phrase _Sarch nia Hîn Húrin_ 'grave of the
        children of Húrin' stating "The word _nia_ is almost certainly wrong,
        though also seen in _Glaer nia Chîn Húrin_ WJ:160, 251. Perhaps for _nia_
        should be read _ina_, as in the early form _Haudh-ina-Nengin_ WJ:79". No
        reason is actually given why the form is "almost certainly wrong", though
        it doesn't fit into the theory Salo developed earlier.

        2) Silent dismissal:

        On p. 108, Salo makes a distinction between _si_ 'now' and _sí_ 'here'. On
        p. 212 in the discussion of Lúthien's song he stresses this distinction
        again: "_si_: adverb, 'now' [...] not to be confused with the related _sí_
        'here'."

        However, that doesn't go too well with Sam's cry _le nallon sí
        di-nguruthos!_ and the translation given by Tolkien in L:278: 'to
        thee I cry now in the shadow of (the fear of) death'. In Salo's discussion
        of the text, the translation reads 'I cry to you under the horror of death',
        and the form _sí_ is conveniently ignored in the word-by-word analysis.

        3) Dismissal on a fictional basis:

        On p. 118, Salo discusses the past tense formation _car-_ > _agor_. He
        acknowledges that Tolkien states that the formation is "usual in Sindarin
        'strong' or primary verbs" (XI:415) but continues with the claim "but in
        fact examples are much rarer than those of the nasal past. One might
        expect such formations as *_udul_ 'he/she/it came', *_idir_ 'he/she/it
        watched', *_egin_ 'he/she/it saw', etc., but these are not in fact found."
        He conveniently fails to mention that while these three forms are indeed
        unattested, his own suggestions *_toll_, *_tirn_, and *_cenn_ are not found
        anywhere either.

        4) Possible updates

        Discussing the conjunction 'and', Salo dismisses the form _ar_ widely
        found in Sindarin texts with: "Although this has not been emended in any
        of the texts cited in this book, it is clear that Tolkien intended to
        generally replace _ar_ with _a(h)_. The change appears to have taken place
        in the early 1950s, prior to the publication of _The Lord of the Rings_."
        (p. 148)

        For all I know, that could be true, although Salo doesn't really provide a
        compelling reason. The latest text including _ar_ is the 'Ae Adar', which
        dates to "sometime during the 1950s" (VT44:21), and in late notes (1968)
        Tolkien gives a Common Eldarin form _as_ and Sindarin _ah_ (VT43:30); cf.
        also _Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth_ (X:303). However, it seems rather
        absurd to assume that Tolkien would have gone over his early texts some
        time around 1960 and changed just _ar_ into _ah_ everywhere and nothing
        else.


        III. "Proving" the theory

        Especially in the discussion of the verbal system, Salo doesn't show a lot
        of hesitation to throw out a Tolkien-made example or to emend it to a form
        which goes along with his theory. Since most of the attested verbal forms
        are actually Noldorin, this is not so much trying to standardize and unify
        Sindarin and Noldorin, it is closer to fabricating evidence to "confirm" a
        pre-existing theory. The strategies are pretty similar, though:

        1) Silent "correction"

        Verbs that do not conform to the expected pattern are simply emended
        where needed -- this is the fate of the infinitive _garo_ (V:360, VT45:14),
        which becomes ?_geri_ in the paradigm shown on p. 126; of the verb
        _aphad-_ (XI:387), which is changed into **_aphada-_ (p. 128); of the past
        tense _degant_ (VT45:37), which is quoted as **_dagant_ (p. 119) to
        "confirm" a pattern; of the verb _dant-_ (V:354), which leads to the
        invention of the verb **_danna-_ (p. 135); and a lot of other forms which
        don't fit into a neat theory.

        2) Silent dismissal

        Sometimes forms which do not agree with the theory are left out of the
        discussion. On p. 119, Salo states: "There was also a past tense suffix
        that added _-s, -ss-_ to the stem. This suffix is found attached to the
        _-ta_ verbs. It is also found in the composite form _-a-s, -a-ss-_ with CVC
        root verbs that originally ended in the alveolar stops _t_ and _d_ [...] However,
        this past tense may have been preserved only in the Noldorin dialect of
        Sindarin, as we have _teithant_ from the _-ta_ verb _teitha-_ but not
        _teithas_."

        Of course that seems plausible -- unless you include the past tense form
        _erias_ from _eria-_ (VT46:7), which spoils not only the statement that it
        is a suffix for _-ta_ verbs but also the relevance of _teithant_ (the fact
        that VT46 appeared during the final preparation of the book is hardly
        relevant -- _erias_ was known from [1] published on _Tengwestië_ shortly
        after VT 45 appeared).

        3) "Exceptional" status

        Forms that do not conform to the pattern but for some reason resist
        emendation are explained as "exceptions", like on p. 118 where we learn
        about what Salo terms "Ablaut" past tenses: "Pasts of this form are rare
        and were probably replaced by analogical formations by the period of
        Classical Sindarin."

        The actual distribution of nasal infixion past tenses vs. ablaut past
        tenses in Noldorin is 12:4, i.e. about 25% of the attested forms show this
        variant (see [1]). That is not really negligible. As for the replacement
        by analogical formation, 2 of the ablaut past tenses show alternative weak
        past tenses using the ending _-ant_ and 6 of the 12 nasal infixed past
        tenses show _-ant/-as_ -- the ratio is therefore pretty much the same,
        analogical past tenses did not specifically level ablaut past tenses but
        all "strong" past tenses in the same way, be it n-infixion or ablaut.

        4) Unresolved discrepancies

        Occasionally a form that doesn't agree with the theory is allowed to
        stand in apparent contradiction to the grammar, though no explanation is
        given. For example, we find in the discussion of the preposition _athar_
        that it causes liquid mutation, followed by the example _athar harthad_
        'beyond hope', where we might expect to see ?_athar charthad_ according to
        Salo's liquid mutation table. No discussion of this phenomenon is provided.


        IV. Marking (un)attested forms

        In the preface, Salo introduces the following scheme to distinguish
        attested and reconstructed forms: A ! is used to mark a reconstruction, a
        * is used to mark an historic form in the fictional timeline of language
        development, and a # is used to mark a form with regularized spelling.

        This scheme has one disadvantage which is obvious a priori -- Salo doesn't
        distinguish between a historic form found in Tolkien's writings and one
        reconstructed by himself: they are both listed using *. In addition, Salo
        occasionally lists forms he considers doubtful also marked with the *, cf.
        *_udul_ or *_idir_ on p. 118.

        Forms not found in Tolkien's writings are sometimes marked with a ! in the
        main grammar sections of the book, sometimes not; there is no clear
        scheme. In order to learn if a complete word is deduced somewhere one can
        usually refer to the Sindarin-English wordlist in the appendix where the
        scheme has been carried out more thoroughly, but which inflectional forms
        of a given word are actually attested and which are not is impossible to
        determine from the book.

        To be fair, Salo discusses outright reconstructions in text passages (so
        e.g. for the pronouns or the verb 'to be'), and the pattern of the four
        consonant mutations is marked very thoroughly according to what is
        attested and what is deduced. Nevertheless, this rigor is lacking in many
        other discussions of the grammar. Regularized spelling likewise is only
        indicated in the appendix, not in the main bulk of the text. This creates
        the (false) impressions that a lot of forms would be comparatively well
        known.

        The translations given for Sindarin expressions and names are often
        different from those found in Tolkien's writings (and as such unattested).
        For example, for _nad_ 'thing' (V:374) we find on p. 121 the additional
        translation 'being'. However, this translation isn't actually given
        anywhere by Tolkien; its purpose is evidently to provide support for
        Salo's idea that the form is a gerund of the verb 'to be'.


        V. Sindarin phonology development

        A large portion of the first part of the book deals with the sequence of
        sound changes from Common Eldarin to "classical" Sindarin across the
        intermediate stages of Old Sindarin and Middle Sindarin. This is a highly
        detailed analysis involving a staggering amount of work and is very
        fascinating to read, although it is difficult to see the complete picture
        due to the wealth of details.

        The main problem here is that Salo did not introduce a scheme to make a
        distinction between forms by Tolkien and by himself. Thus, while the
        sequence of sound shifts may have been as Salo describes, it is very hard
        to see to what degree one can rely on the tables without re-doing the
        whole analysis. This is very sad, but as it is, I would hesitate to base a
        serious conclusion on the tables.


        VI. The grammar and syntax of Sindarin

        In the discussion of Sindarin grammar and syntax, David Salo presents new
        observations and interesting insights alongside forms pressed into a
        framework he thinks should be correct.

        I found the observation that the first noun in a genitive sequence or
        adjective is often shortened (p. 93, 103) very interesting and new.
        Similarly the A-affection on p. 82 (the change from e.g. near-final _i_ to
        _e_ in the presence of an ending _a_ in Old Sindarin, cf. the adjective
        ending _-ina_ > _-en_) is a very good explanation of a phenomenon of which
        I had only noticed some particular instances. Likewise, the presentation of
        the ablaut phenomenon (p. 90) is very clear and nicely done.

        The presentation of the adjective employs a few unusual interpretations,
        which nevertheless are possible. So is Salo's assumption that _menel-vîr
        síla díriel_ should be read as 'watchful sky-jewel shines' rather than
        'sky-jewel shines watchful' (p. 101), and the observation that if the
        adjective precedes the noun, the noun may be lenited (p. 102) is very good
        indeed. On the other hand, it is odd to see _fen hollen_ as an example for
        the lack of lenition (p. 102) -- since that is the only place where the word
        is attested, we don't know if it is lenited ?_sollen_ or unlenited ?_hollen_.

        The discussion of the pronominal system is as expected -- since Tolkien
        changed this particular aspect of his languages over and over, it is hard
        to make certain statements, and this is a chapter in which Salo is very
        careful and honest in the distinction between attested and reconstructed
        forms.

        A critical view on the presentation of the verbal system has already been
        given in some detail above: The presentation suffers strongly from the
        fact that Salo tries to force attested forms to conform to his ideas
        rather than let the attested forms guide the development of his theory.

        The discussion of the definite article includes the old idea that it may
        become ?_ir_ before nouns beginning with _i-_ -- while there is a
        possibility that this is so, there is _i innas lin_ 'thy will' from the Ae Adar
        (VT44:21f) to show that this is not necessarily so, and Qenya _írë_ (V:72)
        'when' to provide a plausible alternative translation of the (untranslated)
        _Ir Ithil ammen Eruchîn _ (III:354). Salo doesn't mention this possibility.


        VII. Sindarin word formation

        To be frank, Salo's chapter on word formation from Common Eldarin roots
        doesn't make much sense to me. On p. 158, he seems to assume that words
        like _cam_ 'hand' or _gamp_ 'hook' are derived from a nasalized root (as
        opposed to the derivation using a suffix described later), hence KAB >
        ?_kamb_ > _cam_ or GAP > ?_gamp_ > _gamp_. That idea completely neglects
        the simple fact that a form in Common Eldarin is often not only relevant for
        Sindarin only but also for Quenya. Therefore we should be looking for a
        form which is able to yield both Sindarin _gamp_ and Quenya _ampa_ -- and
        that rather suggests a derivational suffix like _-na_. It so happens that
        Tolkien himself describes the derivation _gapna_ > _gampa_ > _gamp_ in
        VT47:20, where we also find the Common Eldarin form of _cam_ -- it is
        _kambâ_ (VT47:7), which is the result of _kab-mâ_ (VT47:12), i.e. it also
        involves a derivational suffix.

        The same is true for the nouns with doubled finals -- Salo derives _peth_
        'word' via a doubling of the final root consonant, not via a suffix -- and
        yet we find under KWET the Common Eldarin form _kwetta_ (V:366), which
        evidently employs a derivational suffix _-ta_ (and leads to Quenya
        _quetta_ attested in XI:391).

        A similar lack of consistency with the formation of Quenya words flaws the
        whole chapter -- Salo fails to recognize that Sindarin _aegas_ 'mountain
        peak' is the cognate of Quenya _aikasse_ (V:349), and the latter form
        gives a good clue as to the origin of _-as_ in this case: it probably
        represents a fossilized locative _aikasse_ *'on pointed place' >
        'mountain-peak' and probably is not the same suffix seen in e.g. _galas_
        'growth' but rather in _ennas_ 'there' (the latter form is interpreted by
        Salo as fossilized locative on p. 109).

        Likewise, the gerund endings are not really ?_-ad_ (from ?_-ata_) and
        ?_-ed_ (from ?_-ita_) as Salo claims (p. 162f), they rather represent the
        same ending _-ta_ which is seen in Quenya, for A-verbs directly attached
        to the stem, cf. _*lindata_ > _linnad_, for stem verbs by means of a
        connecting vowel _i_ just like any present tense ending, hence _*karita_ >
        *_cared _ with A-affection.

        I cannot find much useful information in the word formation part, too much
        of what could be learned by comparing parallel evolution of Sindarin and
        Quenya from the same Common Eldarin stem has simply been neglected.

        The discussion of Sindarin compound words on the other hand is a different
        matter. Salo goes nicely into the different ideas behind compounding words
        and provides an impressive list of examples which show the rich variety of
        consonant and vowel changes which may occur according to the phonological
        environment. This piece of work goes far beyond the Ardalambion statement
        in [2] that "when a word is used as the second element of a compound, it
        often undergoes changes similar to the effects of the soft mutation."


        VIII. Discussion of attested texts

        The discussion of the attested Sindarin samples is seriously flawed by
        Salo's unwillingness to accept what Tolkien wrote.

        First of all, translations given by Salo seldom agree with Tolkien's own
        words (but there is no statement that the translations have in fact been
        altered). Compare, for example, the translation of Sam's inspired cry given
        by Salo:

        'O Queen of the Stars, Kindler of the Stars, far-watching from heaven, I
        cry to you under the horror of death! O watch over me, Ever-white Veil!'
        (p. 223)

        and by Tolkien (L:278):

        'O Elbereth Starkindler, from heaven gazing-afar, to thee I cry now in the
        shadow of (the fear of) death. O look towards me, Everwhite!'

        I see no necessity not to provide Tolkien's own translations and not to
        mark what is probably intended as a more literal translation as such. But
        it doesn't stop here: Salo likewise shows no hesitation in altering the
        actual texts he quotes. While the original of the Ae Adar (VT4:21f) has _i
        innas lin_, Salo's version has a long _i innas lín_ (I agree that it
        probably can be regularized, but I don't agree that it can be done without
        a remark); and while the original has _bo Ceven_, Salo alters this into _bo
        Geven_, stating that _bo Geven_ "is expected here" (p. 232).

        It certainly doesn't make too much sense to me to discuss the attested
        texts if they are altered in the process without notice to fit Salo's
        theory. In an appendix designed to discuss Tolkien's attested texts, Salo
        should be doing that rather than just pretending to.


        IX. Annotated bibliography

        If you are one of the people who wondered "Where the hell do we find all
        the stuff these grammar texts refer to?", then the annotated bibliography
        is for you. In fact, it is an excellent idea. David Salo describes nicely
        where in Tolkien's writings what information can be found, so anyone
        looking for the original references can plan his trip to the bookstore
        accordingly. This is not unimportant, since there are books in which only
        a few names can be found whereas from other sources a wealth of grammar
        information can be extracted.

        It seems a bit odd that Salo tries to provide corrigenda to the
        _Etymologies_ -- while the published texts certainly contain misreadings,
        VT 45 and VT 46, edited by Carl F. Hostetter and Patrick H. Wynne, provide
        "Addenda and Corrigenda to the _Etymologies_" -- unlike Salo's work, their
        work is based on a re-examination of the original manuscripts and not on
        theoretical considerations, and therefore is bound to be much more
        meaningful. While Salo contends that they still may contain mistakes,
        _Vinyar Tengwar_ has a list of errata, so there is no need to make point
        out of it.

        The book concludes with a review of previous works about Sindarin --
        Ruth S. Noel's _The Languages of Tolkien's Middle-Earth_ and Jim Allan's
        _An Introduction to Elvish_. Since both books are very outdated, the result
        is predictable -- Salo points out a lot of flaws in the identification of
        forms that were (at that time) rather mysterious.


        X. Summary

        Without question, _A Gateway to Sindarin_ is currently the best English
        book available on Sindarin. However, given the fact that the only
        competitors are Ruth S. Noel's _The Languages of Tolkien's Middle-Earth_
        and Jim Allan's _An Introduction to Elvish_, which are both outdated and
        inaccurate simply due to a lack of published samples of Sindarin when they
        were written, that in itself is not much of an achievement.

        Who will profit from the book? It is not for someone seeking to learn
        Sindarin and to use it for his own compositions -- it is no language
        course, doesn't contain exercises, and (apart from what Tolkien has
        written) no continuous texts in Sindarin that would show how the language
        could be used. Teaching is not Salo's aim.

        It is probably not even an easy resource for someone who is looking for an
        introduction to Sindarin without the aim to learn it as a language, due to
        the highly technical terms used by Salo -- one has to have more than just
        a basic knowledge of linguistic terminology in order to understand some
        passages.

        It cannot be used as a reference for scholarly studies -- Salo's many
        alterations of Tolkien's material, the lack of distinction between
        Tolkien-made and Salo-made historic forms, and the inaccuracy in providing
        Tolkien's own translations make this impossible -- which is a clear loss.
        With a little more effort, a valuable resource could have been produced.
        As it is, the only safe option (though time consuming) is to look up
        things scattered in Tolkien's original writings -- lists of CE roots, names
        and words are useless for scholarly purposes if they do not reproduce the
        original sources faithfully.

        Given all that, someone with an interest in technical studies of the
        language, be it phonology or grammar, will find a lot of interesting ideas
        in the book. Unfortunately, the reasoning behind these ideas is never
        explained; therefore to get the most out of it one needs both a good
        knowledge of the underlying sources and of other secondary literature
        discussing Sindarin grammar with Tolkien's writings as starting point.

        With a pricetag of $50, my counsel would be to think seriously if one
        would like to have the book. For learning the grammar of Sindarin on a
        technical level, it is not better than what Ardalambion or other sources
        provide for free. For learning how to use the language it is not a
        suitable resource (there are likewise various internet resources available
        for free for that purpose), and for scholarly studies it cannot be used.

        If you have read everything else about Sindarin already -- then get it, it
        is interesting and brings some novel aspects.

        [1] 'The Past-Tense Verb in the Noldorin of the _Etymologies_' by Carl F.
        Hostetter on http://www.elvish.org/Tengwestie

        [2] 'Sindarin -- the Noble Tongue' by Helge Fauskanger on
        http://www.uib.no/people/hnohf/
      • David Kiltz
        Thorsten Renk sent his most welcome and knowledgeable discussion of A Gateway to Sindarin by David Salo. Regarding your review, I ve got two questions: 1)
        Message 3 of 9 , Mar 31, 2005
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          Thorsten Renk sent his most welcome and knowledgeable discussion of
          'A Gateway to Sindarin' by David Salo. Regarding your review, I've got two
          questions:

          1) You say David Salo's language is often over-technical. Could you
          provide some examples, where you feel a term to be 'too technical' ?
          Certainly, if Salo addresses a scholarly audience there is nothing
          wrong with that. In my world, technical language is highly useful and
          being employed because it is accurate. So, 'unnecessarily technical' in
          what respect?

          2) Under section V. you state

          > "it is difficult to see the complete picture due to the wealth of
          > details."

          which sounds rather astounding to me. In fact, it seems like an
          oxymoron. At least in my world an accurate historical description of a
          language can only come close to a complete picture by using all the
          details one can get. Indeed, earlier in your review you (quite rightly,
          I think) expose David Salo's omissions or dismissals of attested forms
          as giving a wrong, or incomplete picture. Or do you refer to the manner
          of presentation rather than the amount of details? Indeed, it seems
          like David Salo actually aims at a 'complete picture' of Sindarin, but
          according to what he views as 'standard Sindarin', not attested
          Tolkienian Noldorin, Sindarin etc. That is why he follows a somewhat
          reductionist and/ or reinterpreting approach, much to the detriment of
          his work. A 'complete' picture needs to point out the many layers,
          lacunae and often patchy evidence rather than create the image of
          totally homogeneous Sindarin, that probably never existed. Which leads
          to my third point:

          3) To me it seems David Salo's book is meant to 'teach'. To teach a
          fictional, 'regularized' Sindarin and to provide a tool to create forms
          not actually attested, using a -more or less- Salonian pattern.
          Surely, a less technical book could have been written for the less
          linguistically savvy reader but that, we agree, wasn't Mr. Salo's aim.
          Rather, he wanted to present 'Sindarin' as _per Salonem_ in a
          comprehensive matter. To be used, perhaps, in productions and
          fabrications à la 'The Lord of the Rings, the movie'.

          David Kiltz
        • Thorsten Renk
          ... Please let me first say that I do not object to the use of technical language as such -- as long as it is done for precision and with proper consideration
          Message 4 of 9 , Apr 11 6:23 PM
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            With regard to the questions raised by David Kiltz:

            > 1) You say David Salo's language is often over-technical. Could you
            > provide some examples, where you feel a term to be 'too technical' ?
            > Certainly, if Salo addresses a scholarly audience there is nothing
            > wrong with that. In my world, technical language is highly useful and
            > being employed because it is accurate. So, 'unnecessarily technical' in
            > what respect?

            Please let me first say that I do not object to the use of technical
            language as such -- as long as it is done for precision and with proper
            consideration of the audience. I use a highly technical language in my own
            scientific publications (which are intended to be read by heavy-ion
            physics theorists). Likewise, Vinyar Tengwar employs a technical language
            and I can't find anything wrong with it -- it is written as a scholarly
            publication and fulfills the criteria for scholarly work, i.e. citation of
            other works, references to sources where applicable and so on.

            However, in my field (physics), I would make a difference in the use of
            technical terms when addressing heavy-ion theorists, physicists or
            scientists in general, acknowledging that there is a tradeoff between the
            use of precise terms for precision and making other people understand what
            I mean. This is a personal judgement, and my remark about Salo's use of
            technical terms reflects precisely that -- my personal impression. I feel
            that the intention of the book is being a 'summary' rather than an ongoing
            research project, and as such I think that technical terms are at times
            overused.

            To give an example from my own field (I am sorry, that is easiest for me)
            -- I could say something like "Applying the 'plus' operator to the '1'
            element and the '2' element leads to an equivalence relation to the '3'
            element of the group with respect to this operator." While using technical
            terms, the sentence actually means only '1 plus 2 is 3', and unless I am
            talking about other groups defined by other operators where the
            meta-language of group structure actually would be necessary, I cannot
            find that there is any loss of information in the simple version.

            Coming back to Salo -- this is how I feel about Chapter 17 on syntax. I
            count myself among the intended audience -- although I have no formal
            knowledge of linguistics, I know the grammar of several languages apart
            from my mothertongue. I would be unable to make much of the chapter if I
            had not read a book on X-bar syntax theory once. As far as I know, syntax
            theory is a kind of meta-language for the description of language -- neat
            if you want to compare two languages with very different grammar, say
            Japanese and Finnish, where the Finnish terms would be inadequate to
            describe Japanese grammar and vice versa, but not adding to clarity if you
            discuss only one language. I would assume that people who have not read
            X-bar theory are confused when Salo calls _i_ a complementizer (p.202) (a
            term non-linguists are in my experience not familiar at all) whereas
            Tolkien calls the Qenya relative pronoun _ya_ a relative pronoun (PE14:54,
            that's admittedly Early Qenya, but I think the point that Tolkien didn't
            use X-bar theory anywhere to describe the grammar of his languages is
            valid).

            So, to give the example of a sentence which I find unnecessarily
            techincal, p. 203: "A sentence can consist of a noun phrase and a
            prepositional phrase (...), in which case the sentence has a jussive
            sense. These are distinct from noun-phrase sentences, as the prepositional
            phrase does not form part of the noun phrase but rather functions
            adverbially to the unexpressed verb 'to be'." I confess I have no idea what
            'a jussive sense' is (it isn't explained in the glossary) but from the
            examples given below I gather (by backwards engineering) that the actual
            meaning of the paragraph is rather simple: If a noun is given as subject
            of the sentence and if there is an object with a preposition, often the
            imperative 'be!' is implied but not written. I fail to see how Salo aims
            for clarity here, as his translations (e.g. '(let there be) fire for the
            saving for us') place 'fire' as object, which doesn't seem to be implied
            by the Sindarin version since there is no lenition of _gurth_ in e.g.
            _gurth an glamhoth_.

            It is my impression that the technical language used here is a complicated
            way of expressing simple grammatical constructions.

            > 2) Under section V. you state
            >
            >> "it is difficult to see the complete picture due to the wealth of
            >> details."
            >
            > which sounds rather astounding to me. In fact, it seems like an
            > oxymoron. At least in my world an accurate historical description of a
            > language can only come close to a complete picture by using all the
            > details one can get. Indeed, earlier in your review you (quite rightly,
            > I think) expose David Salo's omissions or dismissals of attested forms
            > as giving a wrong, or incomplete picture. Or do you refer to the manner
            > of presentation rather than the amount of details?

            There is a German saying 'Den Wald vor lauter Baeumen nicht sehen' (to be
            unable to see the forest because of all the trees) -- that is what I had in
            mind there. I am lost in the many details -- which I for sure would not
            want to be left out -- I would just be glad for a guideline indicating the
            patterns, the differences in flavour in the changes at the different
            conceptual stages. In a nutshell, I would like to read (in addition to
            the text as it is) the answer to the question, "If you were to write a
            paragraph summarizing the changes from Old Sindarin to Sindarin, what
            would that be?" So -- this is only a reference to the manner of
            presentation.


            > 3) To me it seems David Salo's book is meant to 'teach'. To teach a
            > fictional, 'regularized' Sindarin and to provide a tool to create forms
            > not actually attested, using a -more or less- Salonian pattern.
            > Surely, a less technical book could have been written for the less
            > linguistically savvy reader but that, we agree, wasn't Mr. Salo's aim.
            > Rather, he wanted to present 'Sindarin' as _per Salonem_ in a
            > comprehensive matter. To be used, perhaps, in productions and
            > fabrications à la 'The Lord of the Rings, the movie'.

            I am not quite sure about Salo's aim (we might ask him, I suppose). I am,
            however, asked by very different people "Would you recommend that I read
            the book?" -- so I know that non-linguistic minded people are thinking
            about ordering it.

            * Thorsten
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